Book review: ‘Positive People Leadership’ by Nigel Rowe

Three decades of experience distilled into fifty ways to create fulfilling and enjoyable work environments.

Not many of us will have sufficient spirit of inquiry to work out how many bosses we’ve reported to in our careers. But Nigel Rowe has, and as his debut book ‘Positive People Leadership’ (The Book Guild, £9.99, ISBN 9781914471704) posits, there’s a lot to be learned from such data.

During his three-decade (and counting) career, that has seen him progress from graduate software engineer to board director, Rowe has ‘worked for about thirty different bosses’, who in turn have served in the management food chain under their bosses, and so on. With this much leadership expertise influencing the way things are done, there must be high quality findings to be extrapolated, suggests Rowe. With ‘Positive People Leadership’ we have exactly that.

Not only has Rowe learned from every manager he’s reported to, “but as a leader myself, I have learned from every leader I have worked for or interacted with, through both positive and negative experiences.” These lessons have been distilled into the ‘fifty ways to create fulfilling and enjoyable work environments’ of the book’s subtitle. And with the organisational deftness of the chartered engineer he is, Rowe divides these findings into five sections, each making ten clear management points, with end-of-section summaries for readers who feel the need to further filter the author’s advice.

Not that time efficiency would be a factor, because one of the great strengths of ‘Positive People Leadership’ is how crisp and concise it is. The fifty chapters are presented over one hundred pages, and within an hour you’re done. Clearly one of the main things Rowe has learned as an engineer is not to clog up people’s time with pointless verbiage, loquaciousness and garrulity.

As a ‘Management 101’ guide, ‘Positive People Leadership’ is conventional in the way it is structured. Part One deals with the fundamentals of what it means to be a manager before moving on to address leadership style. Part Three is the product of hard-won experience, offering ideas about the best ways to show your team that you are a fully invested leader. This equally applies (only with a different focus in emphasis) to your peers, partners and customers, which is examined before the concluding section detailing techniques and tips on how to do it better.

While this might all sound just a little over-organised and painted-by-numbers, the benefit of this precise structure is that the pragmatism and experience revealed in Rowe’s text rises to the surface without being hindered by graphics, tables, case studies and all the other paraphernalia that pads out most management books.

Of course, a lot of ‘Positive People Leadership’ is simply common sense from someone who, you get the feeling, has seen a lot of metaphorical management car crashes in his career. In being short and succinct, ‘Positive People Leadership’ follows its own advice and is a useful tool for engineering managers everywhere.

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